Chapter 11 – The Interpretation of Stories: From Freud to Today
Freud argued the meanings of our lives and the stories about our lives lie hidden in the
unconscious. He believed that human behaviour and experience are determined by forces over
which we have very little control and about which we are generally aware.
Oedipus complex: from the psychoanalytic standpoint, the most common pattern is revealed in
the fantasy lives of young children, wherein they may feel unconscious sexual feelings toward
one parent and highly aggressive even murderous, feelings toward another.
Oedipus complex is more than an unconscious problem facing preschoolers – fundamental story
for making sense of any life from a Freudian standpoint.
Castration anxiety: the fear that one’s penis will be cut off, but more profoundly it may
symbolize the child’s fear that he will, like Oedipus lose his power. Thus, the boy harbors an
unconscious wish to kill the father, as Freud indeed discovered in the analysis of his own
Penis envy: the young girl’s unconscious dilemma begins with a positive attraction toward the
mother, a mixture of object choice and identification. However, the fantasized mother figure
disappoints the girl when the daughter realizes that both she and the mother lack a penis, which
may symbolize a lack of power. The little girl may blame the mother for the perceived deficiency.
Freud hit upon a general narrative script that can be applied to certain lives, though by no
means all, and one whose dynamics may be found at almost any age. The Oedipus story is about
how characters struggle to live out their strong desires regarding love and power, how they are
often disappointed in this quest, how they must often give up what they want most in order to live
together in harmony, how an individual may feel both love and hatred toward same person, etc –
universal life narrative themes.
Yukio Mishima – strived for masculine body. One interpretation of his gruesome suicide suggests
that he struggled throughout his life with a very complicated Oedipus complex, involving a
confusion of object choice and identification aimed both at men he loved and himself.
Object choice: Freud’s concept for the unconscious desire to ‘have’ the other (another person) in
a powerful and sensual way. In object choice, the person seeks to invest his or her libido, or
sexual energy in another.
Identification: Freud’s concept for the unconscious desire to ‘be’ or be like the other person.
Freud suggests that object choice is generally preferred at the unconscious level and that
identification arises when object choice is thwarted, as is the case most commonly in the Oedipus
complex. We seek first to have the other but when we cannot we seek to be the other.